If Céu had her way, everyone would be just a little bit lazier. The Brazilian singer/songwriter hails a life of leisure on her second studio album, "Vagarosa," released July 7 on Six Degrees Records. The album was inspired in part by her 10-month-old daughter, Rosa.
"It's about stopping to enjoy the more simple, natural things in life," says Céu, who cut her tour short in May 2008 when she became pregnant. "It was a really special time for me. I started to do my own music and play around the world—things that I never thought would be possible—and the album reflects that."
"Vagarosa" has sold 1,300 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and though its title roughly translates to "idle," its recording was just the opposite. From the sensual drums, bass and guitar flourishes on "Sonâmbulo" to the dub reggae mixed with bossa nova on "Cangote," Céu and her co-producers Beto Villares, Gustavo Lenzi and Gui Amabis tapped into a rich well of musical influences.
"I'm a big fan of Jamaican music, especially roots reggae, and American singers like Erykah Badu," says Céu, who played in her first band at 15 and left her native São Paolo for the United States three years later to study music.
The album also features a languid cover of Jorge Ben Jor's "Rosa Menina Rosa" (in tribute to Céu's daughter) and an English song titled "Papa," in which the singer playfully echoes one of her late father's favorite sayings: "Don't take yourself too seriously." The guest list of contributors reads like a who's who of Rio de Janeiro's most talented musicians, like drummer/MC Curumin, singer Luiz Melodia and members of Los Sebosos Postizos.
While even the most talented world music artists struggle to break their music in the competitive U.S. market, Céu can count herself among the lucky exceptions. She landed a career-making partnership with Starbucks for her 2007 self-titled debut, becoming the first international artist chosen for the coffee chain's Hear Music series. "It's really hard to get into America with a non-English album," Céu says. "Starbucks helped me a lot for sure." The set went on to sell 99,000 copies, according to SoundScan, and received Grammy and Latin Grammy Award nominations.
Though Céu didn't partner with Starbucks this time around, Six Degrees struck a deal with Barnes & Noble to release a deluxe version of "Vagarosa." The exclusive set features a remix of "Mais Um Lamento" (a track from her first album) and a new, unreleased song called "Visgo De Jaca." Céu's label also put out a five-song EP in May to promote the full album, and it climbed to No. 1 on iTunes' Latin chart the day of its release.
Céu returns to the road this month for U.S. promotion, and she's not taking the opportunity for granted. "There are so many talented, amazing musicians in Brazil but we don't have a lot of structure or money here, so it's hard to tour," Céu says. "But if you can make it happen, wow, it's great."